Washington Week

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6 Things to Know About...Robert Lighthizer

By Joan E. Greve

President-elect Donald Trump made a decision Tuesday regarding one of his signature campaign issues: trade. The president-elect named lawyer Robert Lighthizer as his pick for U.S. Trade Representative, a post that holds the rank of a Cabinet member and focuses on determining the president’s international trade policy. Luckily for Trump, Lighthizer has some experience with the office, which we dug into.

1.    Lighthizer served as the deputy trade representative in the Reagan administration. In that role, he focused on “voluntary restraint agreements” with countries like Japan and Mexico to limit foreign imports of steel.

2.    Like Trump, Lighthizer has been a sharp critic of trade with China, writing in a 2011 editorial that Chinese companies receive “special privileges in global markets, while American companies must struggle to compete with unfairly traded goods.” The title of that editorial? “Donald Trump is no liberal on trade.”

3.    Before becoming the deputy trade representative, Lighthizer was the chief of staff for the Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Bob Dole, would later became Lighthizer’s boss for a second time.  

4.    When Dole ran for the presidency in 1996, Lighthizer served as his treasurer. Dole won the Republican nomination, but lost to incumbent President Bill Clinton in the general election.

5.    As a partner at the DC law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Lighthizer continues to represent parties pushing back against foreign trade, including U.S. Steel Corp.

6.    Lighthizer represents one of Trump’s last cabinet selections, with leadership decisions still to be announced for the Department of Agriculture, Department of Veterans Affairs and Council of Economic Advisers.  


Photo via flickr / Gage Skidmore